Aimee Joy Taylor, a 31-year-old south Charlotte resident, knows about grief.
In December 2005, her 20-year-old brother was driving drunk and died in a car accident. On Mother’s Day 2009, her mother committed suicide because she couldn’t overcome the loss of her son.
“When everything is taken away from you, then you find your true strength,” Taylor said.
These traumatic experiences sent Taylor through an emotional upheaval, and the only thing that seemed to keep her grounded was her passion for massage.
Massage as a profession
Taylor moved to Charlotte from St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2006 and became a licensed massage and bodywork therapist, training and receiving certification through the Therapeutic Massage Training Institute in Dilworth in December 2007.
While she was grieving the loss of her brother and mother, she went to counseling and received weekly massage. She said the counseling clarified the pain, but the massages helped her feel alive.
“When receiving a massage while grieving, it’s like finding control, even for a glimpse and being able to realize, hey, even though times are tough, I’m still here,” said Taylor, who recently received an award at Massage Envy Spa at SouthPark for performing more than 5,000 hours of massage.
After experiencing the empowering results of massage while grieving, she said she felt compelled to help others. In 2008, Taylor opened a free grief massage clinic called Massage Helps, on Monroe Road in south Charlotte.
Taylor said her first client, who recently had lost his daughter, told her he hadn’t felt like himself in months, until he had the massage. From that moment on, Taylor knew she had found her purpose.
Taylor closed Massage Helps in 2009 to focus on healing from her mother’s death. She continued to give grief massages through Massage Envy and opened a mobile massage service in 2011.
By February 2012, Taylor was invited to perform grief massages at The Respite, a nonprofit organization in Charlotte that uses a holistic approach to grieving through techniques like yoga, creative arts and grief massage.
In July, Taylor received a community grant from the Massage Therapy Foundation, a national organization that educates about the scientific evidence that supports the positive effects of massage therapy. This was the first community grant ever awarded for grief massage.
The grant allows Taylor to provide 38 people with three free 60-minute sessions of grief massage therapy, as well as funding a course for her to train six licensed massage therapist interested in becoming certified in grief massage.
On the last Monday of every month, The Respite will hold an open house from 7-9 p.m. for anyone interested in receiving free sessions. Taylor will provide an informational session on grief massage, as well as providing chair massages.
Potential candidates must be 18 or older and have experienced a traumatic loss within the past year, such as losing a friend, family member, colleague or a patient or client in a professional situation.
Taylor said that the effects of grief on the body often go unnoticed because the bereaved are consumed with emotional and spiritual healing. She said symptoms such as “increased stress hormones, increased blood pressure, insomnia and painfully constricted muscles” are common physical side effects.
When a person is grieving the nervous system also gets stuck in fight or flight mode, making it hard for the body to continue its normal regenerative processes, which can decrease the immune system and leave it open to infections and illnesses.
“Grief is an opportunity for spiritual growth,” Taylor said, “It can be extremely empowering when you go through those darks nights and come out of it with a new sense of awareness.”